Month: November 2018

Love Notes

Frog Prince or Prince Frog – Fairy tales inverted

frog prince

Didn’t we all love the story growing up – A princess magically transforms a frog into a prince with a kiss. As a girl I remember reading the fairy tale over and over, completely enamoured by the story and the images… the princess finally garnering enough courage to kiss the frog… kiss of true love, and the prince (frog) who promises to be true to her forever…

As I grew up and went looking for my prince imagine my disappointment when my fairy tale turned upside down. Each time I would meet my prince and greet him with a kiss he would turn into frog and hop away, leaving me alone and heartbroken…

Perhaps life is all about realizing that fairy tales are not meant to be, but that’s all right. We make our stories as we go along with real people!

First crush

Tough one! The dreamy grey-eyed lawyer who used to pass our house every day on his way to the court, or the tall 10th standard boy from my school. I was just 13 then…shy…reserved…, never had the guts to talk to either of them and don’t even remember their names now. They were my ‘dream dates’, literally…

I grew up in a small town where everybody knows everybody, anywhere you go you meet somebody who knows your dad or uncle making it very difficult for me to pursue my romantic interests.

Had a heart-breaking encounter with my lawyer when I went home last year – My dreamy-eyed lawyer has metamorphosed into a pot-bellied 50 something…tried very hard but couldn’t find a trace of his former romantic self….or, may be the romance was all me… influenced by Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind it was my quest for Mr. Rochester and Rhett Butler.

Around that time, I also had a crush on a certain Pakistani cricketer …so much so that my mother was worried. His posters were all over my room… I imagined myself to be his ‘true love’ and I was confident that we would get married some day and bring an end to the Indo-Pak tensions…

First crush…funny, silly, seems utterly meaningless now… did make growing up so much more exciting…

Growing up, falling In and Out of love

I loved my student days. I enjoyed all the attention I got – those stares and longing glances, scribbled love notes, fumbling love yous. But at that time boys my age didn’t impress me, I fancied Rhett Butler! (Do kids still read Gone with the Wind?)

Love note

Our times were much slower. Months would pass before side long glances would graduate into a ‘hello’ and then may be rendezvous in between classes, holding hands occasionally. There were love notes and roses and mushy greeting cards professing everlasting love. Those were the days when we believed in ‘true love’ and ‘forever’. We reveled in the idea of love and romance, we believed in Platonic love. Physical intimacy came much later, sometimes never but that didn’t take away anything.

Hostel life offered more opportunities for romance. Dates in the college canteens, long walks in star lit nights, bouquets of wild flowers and of course lovey dovey greeting cards. That was the time when I could go out for a movie or a dinner date with my college boyfriend. That romance continued for a while even after I moved to Delhi.

Early years at work was more like an extension of college life. There were lot of young people around and we would hang out after work. Life somehow was rosier then, everything seemed possible. We would go all over the city in a DTC bus, hang out in Dilli Haat, stand in long ques for the Rs. 10 movie tickets (front row was available for 10 bucks in those days), McDonadls or Nirulas for dinner – funds were limited but life was perfect!

It wasn’t difficult to find someone you would like to date or hang out with. Blind dates were set up by friends which sometimes turned into sweet romance (which I then thought would last forever!). I fell in love, broke my heart and fell out of love. Then suddenly I got busy with my job and there was no time for love or romance. Finally, when I decided that it’s time to meet someone, love and romance had gone digital and there is Tinder!

Old Photo Studios, Dark Rooms & more…

Studio photographs of my parents

Browsing through the old albums I suddenly remembered those photo studios that were in every nook and corner when I was a kid. People used to go to the studios regularly to get their photographs taken – solos, couple photos, family photographs etc. The photographer used to usher them inside, make them stand against a backdrop – mostly black or navy-blue heavy curtain, and take the photograph. These studios had face powder, comb and a few make up items lying around in case a customer needed to touch up before the click.

Studio visits were an event often marked by important occasions like anniversaries, birthdays etc. People would usually put on their best clothes, jewelleries and make-up before each visit. My parents got their pictures clicked pretty frequently when they were newly-wed. After I was born a photographer used to come home every month to take my photographs, privileges of the first-born! Those were the days of black & white photographs, the studious were much simpler. The photographer who used to take my pictures had a studio in the neighbourhood that has gone out of business long ago!

Very few people had cameras then, it was considered to be an expensive hobby. Luckily two of my uncles (my mom’s brother-in laws) were into photography. They owned those manual cameras with flash. Thanks to them we have a huge collection of childhood photographs taken during summer vacations.

When I was 16 my father got me an automatic Yaschika Camera.The gift came with riders – to be used judiciously under adult supervision. I was thrilled nonetheless. I would coax and cajole my parents to buy me film rolls.Yes, cameras’ then needed to be loaded with rolls first – Kodak, Fuji etc. Once loaded we could take about 34 to 36 photographs. Each photograph was carefully framed because we tried our best not to waste films. The film rolls were then developed in the dark rooms of the studios. Once done bundle of photographs with negatives were handed over to us. I still remember holding the negatives against the light trying to decide which ones to be sent for reprint.

Dark rooms always had a certain mystery and allure for me. I would try to peek into the dark room whenever I was sent to collect photographs. Writers and filmmakers did use the concept of dark room very deftly.The iconic movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro revolves around two friends (Nasiruddin Shah & Ravi Baswani) trying to catch a killer who was accidentally captured in an image that was being developed by Nasiruddin (a photographer) in the darkroom. Not sure if such scenes will lend meaning to our generation next for whom dark room is only a photography app or a game!

Happy Diwali, Mitti Ke Diye Wali!

Remember the days when Diwali was about earthen Diyas, making wicks the night before, pouring oil in the Diyas and getting them ready so that they could lit up the dark Diwali night. And of course, rangolis and home-made sweets and simple pathakas like phool jharis, charkis and anars. We would watch from a distance as mom and grand mom would make the wicks and get the Diyas ready. We were allowed to place the Diyas and light them once the sun went down, under the supervision of adults.

I remember lighting the Diyas and watching our house and the entire neighbourhood lit up beautifully the dark Diwali night. As kids our real challenge was trying to guard the flames from the gentle autumn breeze, stoking the wicks and ensuring the Diyas would stay lit as long as possible. Of course, the flames of Diyas lasted only a few hours. They were not as strong or colourful as the artificial lights decorating the buildings and houses during Diwali and other festivities these days, but their flickering flames had a beauty and simplicity that cannot be matched by these artificial lights!

So, let this Diwali be Mitti ke Diye Wali! These days mitti waale Diyas are available in different designs, wicks are readily available in the market, making it much easier to light a Diya. Let’s bring back the charm of those flickering flames and breathe life into the dying profession of pottery!

Making of Diyas & other decorative items: Project Why

Revisiting Agartala

Agartala palace by the lake

 Agartala Palace by the Lake

Agartala will always have a special place in my heart. A small relatively quieter town that I grew up in, with friendly bunch of people. A town that I was eager to leave behind during my teens when my ambitions knew no bounds. A town that I crave to revisit now from time to time but feel mildly disappointed during each visit.

I guess hometown does that to us all. Somewhere in our imagination we crave for a place that has remained unchanged, that will take us back to those carefree childhood days whenever we go back. Change however is inevitable!

A lot about Agartala has changed as well. The quiet town that I once grew up in has become noisier and is bustling with activity. There are malls in Agartala now and fast food chains. As a kid samosa, kachoris and chops were the only fast food we knew. The quiet lane by our house is now a busy road. We can hear vehicles passing by and honking, voices of people on the pavement talking even from the bedrooms. When I go back now, it takes me a few nights to get used to the noise and get some good sleep.

Tatched roof tin house bordered by beetle nut treesI remember my childhood home with a huge courtyard, with jackfruit trees, mango trees and coconut trees. There were beetle nut trees along the boundary. Our house was defined by a big bakul (creamy white fragrant flowers) tree by the gate – the house with the bakul gaach (tree). There were many flower plants and crotons in the front yard, dad liked gardening. Agartala is a rainy place, tress grow easily there.

When I think of Agartala I miss those rainy days the most. Pittar patter rain falling through the day on tin roofs, our courtyard and roads getting water logged, wading through the water to the bus stop, floating paper boats in the rain, I yearn for those days.

The courtyard of my childhood home is not as big anymore. The bakul tree is long gone along with many other trees. Unlike earlier we now buy coconuts and jackfruits from the market. The thatched tin roofed house has given way to modern concrete buildings – economic prosperity and modernization taking away a bit of my childhood!

In fact, some time back not so long ago, most houses in Agartala had huge courtyards with all kinds of fruit and flower trees. Some houses even had a small pond, like my maternal grandfather’s place.  We would sometimes fish in that pond and occasionally manage a decent catch. The excitement of pulling that fish out of the pond is something I will never forgot.

Some things however haven’t changed, the excitement I feel each time the wheel of the plane touches Agartala, the lake before our house (though the banks have been concretised), the homemade food – the variety of fish preparations, posto, shukto and sweets.

Agartala remains dear to me for the things that have not changed and for the things that remain unchanged in my memories!